Apprenticeships in Scotland

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
November, 2023

Discover how a foundation, modern or graduate apprenticeship in Scotland can provide the work-based learning you need to forge a successful career in a range of sectors

Apprenticeships provide people with the opportunity to study towards a nationally-recognised qualification while gaining hands-on experience through on-the-job training.

In Scotland, there are three types of apprenticeship:

  • Foundation - equip secondary school pupils with workplace experience while completing their National 5s and Highers.
  • Modern - aimed at people aged 16 and over.
  • Graduate - allows apprentices to take their studies up to Masters level.

See the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) for an idea of how Scottish apprenticeship qualifications compare with other Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

You can view all the Scottish apprenticeship subjects available at APPRENTICESHIPS.SCOT - Explore frameworks.

Get more general information at what is an apprenticeship?

Foundation apprenticeships

Aimed at those still at school, you'll study for a foundation apprenticeship (FA) alongside your National 5s and Highers (equivalent to GCSEs and AS-levels), meaning you'll leave school with a well-rounded and valuable skillset.

Taken over two years, typically beginning in S5, pupils take time out from the classroom to gain workplace experience and make progress towards an SCQF-recognised qualification.

FAs are offered in the following three subjects at SCQF Levels 4/5:

  • automotive
  • construction
  • hospitality

They are also available in 12 subjects at SCQF Level 6:

  • accountancy
  • business skills
  • civil engineering
  • creative and digital media
  • engineering
  • financial services
  • food and drink technologies
  • hardware and system support
  • scientific technologies
  • social services - children and young people
  • social services and healthcare
  • software development.

On completion of an FA, students are well placed to advance to the next stage of their career - whether that's enrolling onto an MA, heading straight into the world of work or applying for further education.

Several Scottish universities, including Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Glasgow, currently accept FAs as an entry requirement onto some courses.

Modern apprenticeships

According to Skills Development Scotland's (SDS) Modern Apprenticeship Statistics Q4 2022/23 release, there were 25,447 modern apprenticeship (MA) starts to the end of 2022/23, a slight increase on the previous year's figures.

These apprenticeships have proved to be a viable alternative to university, with candidates able to gain hands-on experience while earning a wage and studying towards an industry-relevant qualification. Indeed, 96% of Scottish employers say those with a modern apprenticeship are better able to do their job.

There are over a hundred MAs available across a range of sectors, including:

  • accounting
  • agriculture
  • automotive
  • business administration
  • construction
  • digital marketing
  • finance
  • healthcare
  • IT
  • retail.

To discover the range of MA subjects currently available, visit APPRENTICESHIPS.SCOT - Modern apprenticeships.

You're eligible to start an MA once you've reached the Scottish statutory minimum school leaving age, which for the majority is 16.

The specific qualifications needed will vary depending on your employer and apprenticeship, although most ask for three or more National 4s. If you have further qualifications or skills in a specialist field, you may be able to begin at a higher level.

On an MA, you'll be paid for the work you're doing towards becoming qualified. MA candidates can expect to receive the apprentice wage, which as of April 2024 is:

  • £6.40 per hour if you're under 19, and/or in the first year of your MA.
  • £8.60 per hour as you advance into your second year if you're aged 19 or 20, or the National Living Wage (NLW) of £11.44 if you're 21 and over.

Read more about pay for apprentices at GOV.UK - National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates.

Many of Scotland's largest employers, such as Babington, Lantra Scotland, NHS (National Health Service) Scotland and Scottish Water, offer MAs.

Graduate apprenticeships

Graduate apprenticeships (GAs) are the more advanced branch of the Scottish apprenticeship family, offering work-based learning and study up to Masters level.

Employers and higher education institutions collaborate to shape GAs around the needs of the industry. Because of this, you can be sure that everything you'll learn and practice while becoming qualified is directly relevant to boosting your career prospects.

There are 11 types of GA in a variety of subjects, including:

  • accounting
  • business management (including financial services)
  • civil engineering
  • construction and the built environment
  • cyber security
  • data science
  • early learning and childhood
  • engineering: design and manufacture
  • engineering: instrumentation, measurement and control
  • IT: management for business
  • IT: software development.

Read more about these at APPRENTICESHIPS.SCOT - Graduate apprenticeships.

As a GA candidate, you'll be considered an employee of the company you're working for, spending on average one day a week at university or college.

Your learning costs will be funded by the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for the full duration of your course at no cost to the employer.

This means that you'll manage your tuition fees directly with SAAS and your learning provider, with no employer involvement required.

The apprentice wage you get will be paid for by your employer, and legally this must be above the NMW for your age group - see GOV.UK - NMW rates.

However, SDS recommends that GA salaries are kept in line with the NLW (currently £10.90 for those aged 18 and over).

To be eligible for a GA, you'll need to prove that:

  • you're a resident of Scotland
  • the premises you work in are located in Scotland
  • you have the right to live and work in Scotland
  • you're over the age of 16, although some workplaces may impose a minimum age of 18 due to health and safety regulations.

There's no upper age limit for enrolling on a GA, so these programmes are suitable for adult apprentices.

You'll still be eligible if you already have a degree, or if you're already in employment - talk to your employer about the opportunities available to you.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page